Opposition as Definition

OPPOSITION AS DEFINITION….Digby sez:

The non-southern Party appears to exist mainly as a repository of opposition to conservative policies. Is that true?

Yes, there’s some truth to that, but I think it works both ways. One of the reasons that American politics is stalemated these days is that activists in both parties often define themselves more by opposition to the other than by support for a positive program of change. Conservatives ? especially cultural conservatives ? mostly want to fight the moral relativism and assaults on traditionalism that they believe are rife among liberals. Liberals, conversely, mostly want to prevent conservatives from clawing back the gains they made in the 60s and 70s. The end result is trench warfare, with neither side ever winning any significant victories because both sides are fighting rear guard actions.

So what kinds of things would really help working families? That’s not hard to figure out. Rising wages would help, and the single biggest thing we could do there would be to roll back the laws and regulations that have made private sector unionization nearly impossible over the past few decades. Fiscal and monetary policies that encourage full employment would be a good idea too.

What else? National healthcare would help, since working families frequently lose access to healthcare when they’re out of work temporarily or work for someone that doesn’t provide health benefits. Universal access to decent childcare would help since two-job families are the norm rather than the exception these days.

There’s more, but that’s enough for now. All of these things used to be part of the explicit and implicit bargains between business and labor that defined the postwar era: if you work hard you’ll make enough to raise a family on one salary; you’ll get decent healthcare for you and your kids; and as the economy grows, we’ll all get richer and more prosperous together. That bargain broke down long ago, but nothing has since taken its place. Sounds like a pretty good campaign platform to me.

Washington Monthly - Donate Today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation